Wounded Attachment: Relationships of Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault

15 Brilliant Chuck Palahniuk Quotes

By Valerie Kuykendall-Rogers therapist in Houston, TX

The impact of childhood sexual assault has reverberating effects on almost every facet of survivors’ livelihood, from relationships with family, friends, partners, spouses, and children to their jobs, finances, faith, etc. It is as if sexual assault redefines one’s pattern of and trajectory in life.

Sexual assault is the act of forcing, enticing, intimidating, or coercing another person to engage in a sexual activity, from fondling to coitus, when the other person is unwilling or unable (as is the case of one who is underage, drugged, or unconscious). Imagine yourself as a child, seeing the world through a child’s eyes, and then being introduced to a violent act—an act that serves to not only damage one’s physical body and mental/cognitive mind-set, but also disrupt one’s spiritual being.

This one act for some—repeated acts of violence for others—does untold amounts of damage to one’s psyche. Yet the resilience I’ve witnessed from many who choose to live their lives after the violence is remarkable. Unfortunately, for many the damage is such that many are unaware of how it has skewed their way of looking at the world. This sometimes is displayed in the relationships subsequent to the sexual assault.

Far too often, survivors believe that once the assault ends, it is done and they don’t need to talk about it. Yet the choices made, the decisions not made, and the relationships that come afterward tell a different story. Wounded attachment is an insidious component that I have seen repeatedly in my work with adult survivors of childhood sexual assault. What is wounded attachment? It’s the unconscious way of being attracted or attached to someone or something that reminds the survivor of or reinforces the wound/trauma, or in this case the sexual assault. At its core, it’s the way in which survivors subconsciously seek out relationships that reinforce the wounded aspect of themselves.

Sometimes it is displayed in the choice of employment/work. For example, survivors may find themselves working at a job that belittles them, makes them feel worthless, or where they feel like they have to make everyone else happy at the expense of their own happiness, thereby reinforcing their wounded concept of self. Another example is when a survivor is continually engaged in romantic relationships that serve to reinforce the wounded parts of self.As a child, depending on when the assault occurred and the developmental stage in which it occurred, the person seeks to please the adult and gain affection, attention, nurturing, love, trust, etc. A child who has been sexually assaulted blurs that idea of love, nurturing, trust, attention, and affection, and begins to believe that the only way to receive love, attention, etc., is to please the “assaulter.” This remains in effect as the child matures into adulthood.

Although the assault is no longer occurring, if the child did not receive any type of counseling, intervention, or effective treatment to process and repair the damage to the mind, body, and psyche, then this adult is continuing to live out the wounds experienced as a child. As such, the adult becomes caught in a cycle of relationships that reinforce the wounded attachments. Awareness of this plays a crucial role in helping adult survivors of sexual assault move toward recovery, resiliency, and healing.


Beginning Treatment of PTSD and Related Anxiety Disorders

Good article on healing from PTSD/ C-PTSD.

Love & baby steps,

SG x

(Source: #solar_sisters)

by Tom Cloyd, MS, MA – Counselor / Psychotherapist

Posttraumatic stress management

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD (described below), is a serious, disabling psychological condition whose successful treatment takes time, care, and experience. Latest research on treatment effectiveness indicates that, while a single treatment session can produce excellent results, complete treatment may take a number of weeks. With complex PTSD cases, involving chronic trauma or multiple traumatic events, the disorder can take significantly longer to resolve, and complete resolution may be difficult.

While you are waiting for your treatment to finish, what can you do to help yourself return to a normal life as quickly as possible? Suggested here are several answers to this important question, answers that have been found to be helpful to many people. It is likely that you will get the same results that they have, if you apply these ideas and procedures thoughtfully and diligently.

Why does PTSD happen?

When something traumatic happens to us, we are, by definition, overwhelmed by the amount of negative feeling that the event provokes. Our normal capacity to function is lost, for a time. We are traumatized.

Immediately after the event is over, all that remains is a memory. Our brains have the capacity to heal naturally from the effects of traumatic events, by converting traumatic memory into ordinary memory. The result is that the memory no longer functionally disturbs us, although we may always be uncomfortable about what happened to us.

However, if our brain has not been able to recover from an extremely distressing, painful, fearful, or shameful experience that occurred in the past, posttraumatic stress symptoms (described in the next section) will result. Whether or not these symptoms constitute formal PTSD, they will still produce a serious anxiety disorder, with complex and disabling consequences.

Failure to heal from a psychological trauma will result in continuing hypersensitivity to certain stimuli, resulting in one form or another of emotional over-stimulation of the brain. Memory of the trauma will simply continue to overwhelm the brain, with the result that one is stuck with the traumatic memory and its effects.

What does PTSD do to us?

The person with enduring posttraumatic stress experiences symptoms that seriously disrupt their peace of mind, their relationships, their work, or their recreational activities. This situation can easily continue for years. With active PTSD, there are four results of an unhealed psychological trauma. Described as psychological symptoms, they are these:

Memories of the trauma keep coming back to us, repeatedly;

We try hard, over and over, to avoid anything (including memories) associated with the trauma;

We experience a general loss of ability to respond positively to the important things and people in our life;

We experience chronic increased responsiveness to stimulating things in life, so that we may be inappropriately irritable, suffer from insomnia, have trouble with anxiety and lack of concentration, be “jumpy”, and so on.

Recovery from PTSD

Recovery from PTSD initially involves teaching your brain new ways of dealing with your distressing and disruptive memories and symptoms. Do not mistake this learning of symptom management methods for treatment. Symptom management is similar to first aid. Its purpose is to assist you in achieving some comfort, and adequate function, while you are transitioning to full treatment.

This learning of new ways of managing symptoms will often occur automatically if you will simply allow your brain to notice the effects of certain new behaviors. In the beginning of your treatment, practicing some rather simple things will get you started with the essential learning you will need to accomplish promote you healing:

Check in with yourself from time to time. Notice where your main attention is focused at the moment. Practice distinguishing between “inside stuff” and “outside stuff” – internal versus external stimuli, and memories and the imaginary world inside your head as contrasted with the real world physically around you. Work at learning to become good at choosing to attend to the outside stuff as a way of stopping unpleasant internal experiences. You can do this by spending a little time carefully noting the details of your present environment – objects, shapes, colors, textures, and so on. Allow your attention to shift and to become absorbed in what is real, immediate, and safe.

Practice choosing to calm yourself. Let go of muscle tension, slow your breathing and bodily movements, become quiet outside and inside. Practice allowing your mind to become blank, then keep it blank and calm for a little while. Practice allowing yourself to come to a resting place from time to time. If this is hard for you (and it can be particularly difficult before your PTSD has received much treatment), then practice calming yourself using slow walking, noticing carefully every little movement you make. Pretend you are stalking an animal that is very close to you, and you are seeking to move up to it and just touch it, unseen. Walk very, very slowly, noticing every little movement you make. This will require a great deal of concentration. Do this exercise for several minutes – the longer the better. This active calming exercise is often very helpful for individuals with PTSD.

Practice correcting your time perspective. Bring your attention to present reality here and now. Notice the day of the week, and how old you are, and remind yourself that right now you are not being confronted by an emergency. It may be helpful when doing this to say these things out loud to yourself (if you’re alone!).

Practice correcting your thinking errors. Remind yourself frequently (and particularly when you are upset or anxious), that with PTSD you will tend to have a distorted view of the world. Work at correcting this view by reminding yourself that:

Problems are much more common than crises. Only the latter requires a rapid response.

Feelings will often mislead you. Most of the time your house is NOT on fire, the world is not in crisis, and you are safe right where you are.

Over-reaction (excess feelings), and its opposite (numbness), can bemanaged, while your treatment is focusing on resolving their causes. Let excess negative feeling be a signal for you to choose to use active calming and relaxation skills, such as the slow walking exercise described above. Practice this choice often, for practice will much improve your ability to respond effectively.

Practice caring for yourself. Self-care activities of the most basic sort ARE very important for victims of psychological trauma. Give particular attention to: sleep (or resting, if sleep isn’t possible), exercise (a very good idea!), proper nutrition and medical care, and engaging supportive social contacts. These are all critical aspects of your personal self-support program.

Recovery from PTSD requires action

Help yourself to recover and to grow into a positive relationship to your life by noting and using that which is naturally healing for you. This may well include contact with special people, places, activities, thoughts, feelings, or objects. All of these will be things which in the past have tended to calm you, to help you feel whole and comfortable and at peace, and have led you to feel wonder and gratitude for being alive.

Seek out these things often, to anchor yourself in the real world as an antidote to the experience you have when encountering active posttraumatic stress. Invite yourself to return as often as you can to this healing, real world.

Remember the healing wonder of laughter, and how it tends to put everything into correct and comfortable perspective. Laughter truly is the language of the gods. Speak it often!

FINALLY, do remember that just as the body, if healthy and properly supported, will naturally heal from wounds, so will the mind heal from psychological trauma, under the right conditions. Flowers know how to grow, and our mind knows how to heal. We only need to give it the right kind of support, and the healing will occur. Many, many other people have done accomplished this healing. You surely can as well.


Sexual Trauma and Shame

Survivors of sexual trauma tend to take on many levels of shame , believing they are what was done to them. Sexual abuse and trauma is something that happened to you, it’s not who you are.

SG x

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There are many aspects of shame that can develop for a survivor of sexual trauma. A common false belief for survivors of sexual trauma is: “I am disgusting because what happened to me is disgusting.” Individuals who survive such a horrific violation can begin to take on and internalize what happened to them in a negative way. It is common for survivors of sexual trauma to confuse what was done to them with who they are as a person, and who they are sexually. Not only is this type of thinking false, but it’s also extremely emotionally and sexually damaging. Holding on to this belief even in the slightest would perpetuate a negative sexual self. Carrying such thinking would understandably negatively impact one’s comfort and interest in sex.

The abuse and the trauma is not you. It is not who you are at your core. It is something that happened to you. What happened to you, what someone else did is completely separate from your core self. Meaning, your thoughts, feelings, your love for those around you, your compassion for others is entirely separate. If you were bad because something bad was done to you, then every time something disgusting, bad, or upsetting that happened to you, your core would be defined and impacted by all of those moments, big and small. For example, have you ever found yourself soaking wet from dirty rain water because a car driving by went right through a huge puddle? Have you ever gotten dirty and hands filled with car grease from fixing a flat tire? Or for anyone who has cared for/raised children before, being peed or pooped on is inevitable. Do any of these situations make you who you are? Just like sexual abuse, these are all situations that happened to you. You did not ask for this. Take some time and process this information, and when you’re ready come back to this tip and try this exercise.

Go to the bank, or to your wallet, and take out a twenty dollar bill. Try your best to find a flat, crisp, and clean bill. Take this bill and do your worst physical damage to it. Crinkle it up into a ball, write on it, pour coffee on it, etc. Do your best and most creative damage to this twenty dollar bill without completely shredding it.  Even tear it a little, or stomp on it with the dirtiest pair of your shoes. Once you’ve done everything you can think of while keeping the bill in tact, take the bill and unfold it/flatten in and set it down or hold it out in front of you, and answer yes or no to this one question: After all of that abuse to the twenty dollar bill, how much is it now worth? Does it still hold of it’s worth? It’s still worth twenty dollars, even after all of the grit, grime, misuse of the bill, it is still intact and worth just as much as it always has been.

Only you can determine your worth, and it’s up to you to maintain your worth, regardless of what happens to you. If you are questioning your value and worth right now, wondering if you are damaged and disgusting, this is just your mind responding to the abuse you survived and trying to go through the process of working through the trauma. It’s up to you to remind yourself and your brain that any devaluing thoughts you may be having right now are all false beliefs in response to your trauma. These thoughts are not true, they are not reality. Some people have bruises or broken limbs after an accident. Consider this faulty thinking your “broken limb.” This is a side effect of the trauma you survived. If you continue to remind yourself of that, and continue to separate you from what happened to you, you will be on a better road toward emotional healing and recovery. Carry that beat up, dirty $20 bill around with you for a week, and take it out daily as a reminder. It helps to talk to someone who can help you organize and sort through some of these thoughts and emotions.